About


My goal with APlusPhysics is to create a friendly, coherent and dynamic online resource with a consistent theme; an integrated toolset which can be easily customized to meet the needs of a diverse student and educator constituency while incorporating best known practices in physics education research. The site is designed for easy integration with physics modeling strategies, standards based grading (SBG), mastery learning, and “alternate pathway” programs which support students who, for various reasons, aren’t able to fit into the standard classroom educational model.

It’s a work in progress. I’m learning as I go, refining, expanding, deleting and rebuilding. And then doing it all over again. I’m thankful for the support of the physics community as they provide feedback, ideas, opportunities, and constructive criticism that allow for continual refinement and growth from a variety of perspectives, and whose thoughts and ideas are the foundation of this online conglomeration. I hope you find APlusPhysics a useful web resource, and this blog an insightful journal of a developing teacher’s successes, failures, challenges, struggles, and achievements.

Welcome one and all!

Dan Fullerton




WHO AM I?

I’m a high school physics teacher learning something new every day. I was an engineer in industry for more than 10 years, and an adjunct college professor for eight, yet after three years teaching standard introductory (Regents) as well as AP-B and AP-C physics classes, it is obvious to me that student learning styles are changing rapidly… the standard “by-the-book” pedagogy is no longer the optimal method for teaching all students. I need to find a way to differentiate across a wide range of abilities, interests, backgrounds and habits if I want to help each of my students grow to their maximum potential in the brief time I have with them.

I don’t have all (or many of) the answers — I don’t even have all the questions! What I do have is the energy and ability to learn, make changes, take risks, succeed, fail, and ultimately, grow. This blog details my journey.


WHY GO TO THE TROUBLE?

Writing is thinking. Writing forces you to organize your thoughts, to make mental connections — analyzing what’s worked, and what hasn’t. It forces you to think through your next steps, to reflect on why your experiments succeed and fail. It helps to recognize what you do and don’t know, providing a well-lighted path toward “filling in the gaps.”

No single text or resource completely matches the way you teach. Our class text is a wonderful resource for our students, and I was even lucky enough to serve on the committee which selected the book during my second year in the classroom. It’s accurate and thorough. It aligns nicely to our district outcomes and state standards. But it’s not designed specifically to the course I teach and the method in which I teach it.

Further, students are reluctant to learn and read independently from our text. This is troubling. The most important skill I can teach my students before they leave my classroom and go on to bigger and better things is the ability to teach themselves. Empowering them as learners requires technical reading, critical thinking, and discipline. I struggle with this throughout the entire year, and each year set a goal to extend my students’ independent learning skills through guided inquiry, discovery, and practice. Still, though, in many cases, even with our text, there are gaps.


BRIDGING THE GAPS

I have embarked on a project to create my own online physics resource, tailored specifically to course objectives, with as little extraneous information as possible, and consistent with the methods and organization I use in my classroom. I’m learning and changing every day, so this resource has to be dynamic. Problem solving practice with immediate and constructive feedback should be integrated into every unit. Most importantly, students should learn at their own pace. With a tremendous span of abilities, backgrounds, and learning styles, it’s obvious that one size and speed doesn’t fit all.

Key aspects of this resource, APlusPhysics, include online discussion forums promoting discourse about concepts, applications, and new developments in science; online homework help where students can assist each other (the best way to learn is to teach!); student and educator blogs for learning logs and self reflection; course content distilled down to the “need-to-know” facts with a variety of sample problems, designed specifically to meet course objectives; built-in quizzes to allow students to test their understanding; and resources for physics instructors focusing on student-centered active learning activities.

Many of these resources can be found, in whole or in part, elsewhere on the web. The Physics Classroom is a terrific online resource covering a wide variety of topics in physics; Cramster is a terrific resource for homework help and problem solving; Physics Forums is a terrific bulletin board system discussing physics developments and problems; Castle Learning offers students a tremendous repository for problem solving practice; and of course there are many others.

I’m not trying to rebuild or re-create any of these terrific resources… they all have tremendous potential for the students who take the time to learn and use them productively. However, the learning curve for this expanse of resources can seem insurmountable to the new physics student already exhibiting the classic “deer-in-headlights” shock I’m sure all physics teachers are familiar with. This project is an ongoing method of delivering, refining, and reflecting upon high school physics education.

8 Replies to “About”

  1. Hi Dan,
    Like you (and many other physics teachers), I was an engineer prior to teaching. I worked as a mech eng for about 15 years. Anyways, I’m toying with putting together a 40hr engineering course for summer school. Something introductory, fun and interesting. Have you ever thought about doing something like this? I’d be interested on any thoughts you might have.
    cheers
    Doug

  2. Hi Doug! Absolutely, and we’re actually in our 2nd year of doing just that. I was a microelectronic engineer at Samsung and Kodak, and last year started working with the local university’s outreach office to develop a 6-week microelectronic engineering introductory program for my AP students after the AP exam. It was well received by my students, and RIT is interested in pushing it further.

    We’re still working out details for goals for our second year, but a couple pieces I want to put in place include getting the program up on the web for others to use, and including some online content to help other teachers get started with its presentation. Long-term goal of the program is to offer teachers a fully subsidized on-site professional development program where they not only learn about microelectronics and nanotechnology, but they spend time in the lab building it, while also developing a program they can take back to their students.

    I posted the precursors of this STEP (Semiconductor Technology Enrichment Program) program on APlusPhysics under Educators… I’ll see if I can’t figure out how to add a link: http://aplusphysics.com/educators/STEP.html

    As you can see, it’s nowhere near done, but I love the idea. Our aim is a bit different than yours, though — where as STEP is aimed at educators to allow them to take the material and teach it to their students, you’re shooting directly for the students. I’d think potential engineering students would jump at the chance to get a head start (not to mention a great item on a resume for college interviews)…

    Would love to hear more!

    Best Wishes,
    Dan

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  5. Hello Mr. Wise,

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I think your input may be extremely helpful for me and my research team!

    My name is Danielle Hay and I am a student at Syracuse University and conducting a survey about high school educators.

    Would you or anyone in your organization be interested in taking this brief survey ( I mean brief …Only 10 questions) ?

    I am interested in learning more about how involved teachers are in deciding which books to read in the classroom.

    You can find a link below that will direct you to the page.

    I appreciate your time and hope this was not too much of an inconvenience.

    Thank you,
    Danielle

    https://syracuseuniversity.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_cJfNhyAsks1SQUB

  6. Mr Fullerton,

    I have watched and used a few of your videos for my AP Physics class and I just wanted to say thank you for making them. I always feel like I learn something from them and can clearly understand the way you explain the ideas and concepts. I also appreciate your examples that help demonstrate how to apply everything you’ve taught. Again, thanks for the great videos!

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